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From "Nadav Har'El" <>
Subject Efficiently updating indexed documents
Date Tue, 28 Feb 2006 08:49:08 GMT

A few days ago someone on this list asked how to efficiently "update"
documents in the index, i.e.,
delete the old version of the document (found by some unique id field)  and
add the new version.
The problem was that opening and closing the IndexReader and IndexWriter
after each document
was inefficient (using IndexModifier doesn't help here, because it does the
same under the scenes).
I was also interested in doing the same thing myself.

People suggested doing the deletes immediately and buffering the document
in memory for later. This is doable, but  I wanted to avoid buffering the
new documents (potentially
large) in memory myself (let Lucene do whatever buffering it wishes in
IndexWriter). I also did not
like the idea that in some periods of time, searches will not return the
updated file, because the old
version was already deleted and the new version was not yet indexed.

I therefore came up with the following solution, which I'll be happy to
hear comments about
(especially if you think this solution is broken in some way or my
assumptions are wrong).

The idea is basically this: when I want to replace a document, I immediatly
add (with
IndexWriter.addDocument) the new document to the open IndexWriter. I also
save the
document;s unique id term to a vector "idsReplaced", of terms we will deal
with later:

    private Vector idsReplaced = new Vector();
    public void replaceDocument(Document document, String idfield, Analyzer
analyzer) throws IOException {
      indexwriter.addDocument(document, analyzer);
      idsReplaced.add(new Term(idfield,document.get(idfield)));

Now, when I want to flush the index, I close the IndexWriter to make sure
all the new documents
were added, and then for each id in the idsReplaced vector, I remove all
but the last document
with this id. The trick here is that IndexReader.termDocs(term) returns the
matching documents
ordered by internal document number, and documents added later get a higher
(I hope this is actually true... It seems like that in my experiments), so
we can delete all but the
last matching document for the same id. The code looks something like this:

    // call this after doing indexwriter.close();
    private void doDelete() throws IOException {
      IndexReader ir =;
      for(Iterator i = idsReplaced.iterator(); i.hasNext();){
            Term term = (Term);
            TermDocs docs = ir.termDocs(term);
            int doctodelete = -1;

I did not test this idea too much, but in some initial experiments I tried,
it seems
to work.

Nadav Har'El

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